Fenway Park and Liverpool FC are both sporting icons, but they shouldn’t go together. They just don’t match up. Fenway is the 100-year-old home of the Boston Red Sox, a team synonymous with America’s pastime. Liverpool FC is the 120-year-old English football club from Liverpool with its own storied history. However, thanks to an October 2010 bargain deal and another in August 2011, Liverpool would call Fenway Park home for a warm, late July night, on which they’d face the Italian football club AS Roma.
The game itself could have been considered a forgone conclusion. In late 2010, John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group purchased a controlling stake in Liverpool FC for £300 million. Thomas R. DiBenedetto, another part owner of the Red Sox, also led a group to buy AS Roma, one of the top teams in Italy.
Nonetheless, the match sought to bring the “world’s game” to a country where it is undervalued. Soccer, as it’s called in the U.S., has been slowly but surely rising in popularity, thanks to a growing number of youth playing the sport, the increase in the level of play found in the MLS, and the number of European athletes coming over to have their swan song, thanks in part to the dimmed limelight and high paycheck. Either way, the beautiful game is getting more attention from Americans.
The atmosphere alone on game day could only be described in one word—electric. Before the start of the game, the air was charged with utter ecstasy. Everywhere there were fans: kids seeing their first soccer game,
teenagers getting to see their footballing heroes, and super-fans ready with their vuvuzelas (see photo). The stretch of Yawkey Way and its surrounding streets were flushed with Liverpool red and Roma maroon with dots of Bayern red, Madrid white, and U.S. blue. Wearing a Manchester United or Lazio jersey was like wearing a Yankees cap there any other day of the week—the presence of one inspired many a middle finger and profanity-laced demands for dismissal.
However, it was inside ye ole ballpark where the true thrill lived. Right before the players were announced, there was an arousing rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” a song now famously affiliated with Liverpool. Everyone in the stadium was singing it in unison after it started on the PA. It was a huge reminder of the strength of the fandom present.
Both teams came in undefeated, and only one would leave that way. Roma was clearly the livelier club in the opening moments, constantly testing the defense (which looked like it was playing at 75%), but neither team was playing at full force—it’s preseason; who burns themselves out at preseason? Nevertheless, there were many exciting moments for the Liverpool fans, like young Raheem Sterling dancing with the ball down the sideline and several solid attempts from reserve team striker Nathan Eccleston, showing off his talent. And Roma inspired of a lot of cheers as well, thanks to the dribbiling of Miralem Pjanic and constant presence of Pablo Osvaldo in the 18th.
After halftime, upon which both teams had subbed over half their players, fans had to wait for the first goal by American Michael Bradley for Roma in the 62nd minute. In that moment, everyone in the stadium became his temporary fan; the crowd cheered because the boy from Jersey had done right by his fellow Americans. After the goal, the separation of teams returned with jeers for bad calls and even more substitutions. There were more fight songs throughout pockets of the park, including “Steven Gerrard Gerrard”, a song for Liverpool captain and living legend midfielder Steven Gerrard.
Before long, Roma scored again in the 69th minute through young Italian Alessandro Florenzi. Liverpool would find a consolation goal through Scotsman Charlie Adam in the 80th minute, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Roma’s 2-1 win. Still, there was a healthy of celebration in the face of defeat from the Liverpool fans.
The game itself was a solid exhibition for the fans and a good move for both teams to boost the sport’s profile in the U.S. Now, if only we could get a premier league match played at Fenway in November. This summer classic was great, but a fall throw-down between Everton and Liverpool would be epic.